By Mercedes Suarez, Washington File Special Correspondent
Washington - The United States will continue to work toward long-term security and democracy in Afghanistan, says new U.S. Ambassador to Kabul Ronald Neumann. Neumann was sworn-in by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a ceremony at the State Department on July 27.
"The recent tragedies in Sharm al-Sheikh and London underscore the importance of staying the course helping the Afghan people work their way to a peaceful and stable future as a unified state," Neumann said at his swearing-in.
Previously, Neumann was ambassador to Algeria and Bahrain and most recently was stationed in Baghdad, Iraq, with the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority. In Kabul, Neumann will replace Zalmay Khalilzad, who is now U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The United States has confirmed "its long-term commitment to an Afghanistan that is democratic, free, and able to provide for its own security," said Neumann. He said he looks forward to working closely with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan leaders.
Despite the challenges, Afghanistan "is a stable member of a growing South Asia region," said Rice, who expressed her confidence in Neumann's experience as a career foreign service officer. "Ron will be a partner for President Karzai and the newly elected officials," she added.
"Afghanistan is now ruled by a democratically-elected president and multiethnic Cabinet," Neumann said. He added that U.S. reconstruction efforts have helped "build roads, clinics, schools and basic infrastructure."
Neumann referred to Afghanistan's new constitution and the work of the Afghan national army as other examples of progress being made in the country, and he thanked NATO and U.S. coalition partners for their work in the region.
"Afghanistan is still transitioning from war to peace," said Rice, regarding the work to be done in the nation.
Neumann said some of the challenges facing Afghanistan include "fighting narcotics, establishing rule of law, and enhancing security." He said success in Afghanistan "will ensure that the country will never again be a safe haven for terrorists." He said many private militias already have surrendered their weapons, and Taliban and al-Qaida forces have been weakened significantly.
Afghanistan's parliamentary elections in September will be both a challenge and an opportunity for progress, said Neumann.
Neumann said he inherited his commitment to diplomacy and the nation of Afghanistan from his father, who was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan in the 1960's.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)